24 January 2004

Romanian Leopard Changing Spots?

A right-wing political leader known for his extremist views has unveiled a statue of assassinated Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin. Are his motives political or peaceful?

BUCHAREST--On 15 January, the people of Brasov, a Transylvanian town 170 kilometers north of Bucharest, witnessed an unusual event: the dedication of a statue of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in a local park. But the most unusual aspect of the event was identity of the man behind the new monument: Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the extremist opposition Greater Romania Party (PRM), founder of the incendiary Greater Romania magazine, well-known anti-Semite and extreme right-winger, had commissioned and paid for it.

Tudor, a senator in the Romanian parliament, is well known for views that glorify former Romanian rulers--including Nicolae Ceausescu--subscribe to a pure race of Romanian people, and promote racist ideology. Phrases like "international Jewish-Masonic complot," "camps for Gypsies," and "Hungarian state terrorism" are sprinkled throughout his magazine and speeches. He has denied that the Holocaust took place in Romania, where hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed during World War II.

At the statue's unveiling, the man who is often compared to Russia's Vladimir Zhirinovsky, France's Jean-Marie Le Pen, and Austria's Joerg Haider insisted that he has had a change of heart. "You cannot be a Christian and hate Jews," he declared. "They gave us the Bible."

Tudor's critics, and there are many, call the statue a stunt aimed at winning support for his next presidential bid. In 2000, Tudor was the runner-up in the presidential elections....

One thing is certain: with general elections 10 long months away--on 28 November--the Romanian political drama is just getting started.
SOURCE: Transitions Online, 13-19 January 2004

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